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Off The Wall – Former Irish Pro outlines the Financial Reality of Small Hall Boxing

Guest Article

Martin Wall is a former Irish U21, Universities, and Intermediate Champion. Following his amateur career with Crumlin BC, Wall participated in the Irish semi-pro scene before having two professional contests on small hall cards.

The prices discussed are from Wall’s time fighting, it’s understood they have increased since.

The Three Fs of Professional Boxing

The fight game, the hurt business, prizefighting or – as most of us would call it – boxing. A sport that is deep-rooted in the Irish nation from both an amateur and professional standing. In fact, boxing in Ireland can be traced back as far as the 17th century and, at amateur level, it is of course our most successful Olympic sport, accounting for more than 50% of the medals won in our history. 

Controversy outside of the ring is a frequent factor in Irish amateur boxing, most recently in relation to speculation regarding Amy Broadhurst’s Olympic pursuit (insert link to article). This is quite understandable as, after all, it is an Olympic year and Team Ireland will naturally be pushing to qualify as many boxers as they can and win as many medals as possible in Paris this coming August. 

However, in recent years, the sport in Ireland has experienced a significant shift in the number of young fighters choosing to ditch the vest and more relaxed nature of amateur boxing in order to pursue a career in the cutthroat, ruthless business that is professional Fighting. In some cases, this can be attributed to the pursuit of Fame, social media attention etc. We’ve all seen the likes of Mayweather, Canelo, Fury etc., and some young fighters will believe this is a true reflection of the life of a professional fighter but the reality, which is often not explained to newcomers, is vastly different. 

The surge in the number of fighters turning professional has led to some magnificent professional boxing shows on the island over the last year or two with a total of 15 shows in 2023, two of which were sold out 3Arena blockbuster shows courtesy of the queen of Irish Boxing, Katie Taylor. To date in 2024, there have been seven shows with an endless amount of highlights such as debuts, excellent Celtic title fights, homecomings for Galway’s Thomas O’Toole and Limerick’s Lee Reeves, the return of former world title challengers in Luke Keeler and Spike O’Sullivan, and even the appearance of heavyweight title challenger Dillian Whyte as the main event on the recent St Patrick’s Day show in Castlebar. 

This surge in activity has naturally caught the eye of would-be professionals as well as fighters whose careers may have stagnated for any number of reasons. Essentially, there is now a large number of professional fighters in Ireland competing for any and all available slots on shows as soon as they are announced. This includes fighters with largely no amateur background but who are considered to be good ticket sellers. It may be hard to believe for most people but the easiest part of being a professional boxer, on the ‘small hall’ circuit, is usually the actual fighting. Admittedly, this sounds odd as getting punched surely cannot be easy, but I’m going to attempt to break it down and provide an insight into the stresses a young fighter has to deal with outside of the ring on fight night. 

(It should be noted that the figures and percentages below are not exact and vary from show to show, promoter to promoter and, in some cases, if the promoter also happens to manage fighters on the show, they may allocate a smaller proportion of “show costs” to their fighter). 

Let’s take an example of a debutant hoping to chase their dream: 

Young Joe Bloggs has made the decision to turn professional and their manager has secured them a slot on an upcoming show. The fighter is presented with their first official fight contract to sign, he skips to the section of the contract titled ‘Payment of Boxer’ and young Joe Bloggs thinks “Yes, let me see what I’m getting paid!” and this is when the reality of the business (i.e. the Finances) kicks in. 

The contract reads as follows: 

You may be somewhat confused having read point (a) as it appears to indicate that the fighter needs to pay a minimum of €2,750 before he earns even a single euro. And the €1250 payment in return for the €2,750? This comes in the form of €1,250 worth of tickets. This is the reality of professional small hall boxing, these entertaining, energetic events do not operate for free, and costs have to be proportioned to the individuals who are deemed to be benefitting from the event. 

Now, let’s consider the maths behind the above and the fact that some fighters simply skip to the signature part of a contract and are in some cases oblivious to the financial element of what they have signed up to. The ticket prices above are fairly standard but let’s take the middle price point and consider that in order to cover show costs, opponent fees, and earn the moderate sum of €1,250, Joe Bloggs will need to sell at least 67 tickets or, at an absolute minimum, 46 tickets at €60 a pop in order to cover the relevant costs and then fight for FREE. Granted this is not a massive number of tickets but anything below these numbers and young Joe is going to have to pay to fight. Sponsors play a massive role In the early days of any fighter’s career, enabling them to cover the costs of preparing for a fight and, in some cases, covering the shortfall when enough tickets are not sold. Nevertheless, the sustainability of such a relationship needs to be considered as these sponsors will generally, at some point, expect a return on their investment. 

It should also be noted in the above example, if a young fighter is deemed a “ticket seller” and easily sells the required 67 tickets, they do not simply keep the money from all tickets sold above this limit. They would generally agree a deal with the promoter on a percentage basis, this can vary depending on their selling power, with a 50-50 split being the general standard but, in some cases, the fighter’s percentage on excess sales can be as low as 10%! On top of this, young Joe will then need to pay their manager (generally 15%), his trainer (10%) and probably his cut man (5%), all from the €1,250 he has earned. This leaves the fighter with roughly €875 after potentially a 6-to-8-week camp and all associated costs that will have been paid to date. 

Obviously, all of the above is for illustrative purposes, but the figures are a general representation of the reality fighters can expect to face when turning professional without a large promoter, Olympic medal etc. The importance of being able to meet your financial obligations was illustrated earlier this week with the unfortunate news of the cancellation of the JB Promotions Fastlane Card (insert link) which was due to take place on April 12th in the Warehouse at the Red Cow. Eight Irish fighters were scheduled to feature on this show, but the promoter was forced to pull the plug on the show following a review of ticket sales, with some fighters having sold as little as three tickets with just over two weeks to go. Unfortunately, promoters cannot simply foot the bill for fighters in this scenario. They must understand professional boxing is a business first and foremost. 

None of this has been written with the intention of turning anyone off a career in professional boxing. In fact, it is quite the opposite, it is simply to highlight the reality and make sure that despite the allure of the Fame, the excitement of the Fighting, the number one priority when it comes to professional boxing, is the Finances. 

A special mention to each and every promoter/promotion in the country for even attempting to run these brilliant nights as it is a sometimes thankless and expensive task. Irish Boxing fans salute you.


Integral part of the Irish boxing community for over 13 years